R Encarnação, F Lloyd-Williams, H Bromley, S Capewell
Journal Issue: 
Volume 46: Issue 1: 2016



Evidence shows that one of the main causes for rising obesity rates is
excessive consumption of sugar, which is due in large part to the high sugar content of most soda and juice drinks and junk foods. Worryingly, UK and global populations are consuming increasing amounts of sugary drinks and junk foods (high in salt, sugar and saturated fats). However, there is raised public awareness, and parents in particular want something to be done to curb the alarming rise in
childhood obesity.

Population-wide policies (i.e. taxation, regulation, legislation, reformulation) consistently achieve greater public health gains than interventions and strategies targeted at individuals. Junk food and soda taxes are supported by increasing evidence from empirical and modelling studies. The strongest evidence base is for a tax on sugar sweetened beverages, but in order to effectively reduce consumption, that taxation needs to be at least 20%.

Empirical data from a number of countries which have implemented a duty on sugar or sugary drinks shows rapid, substantial benefits. In the UK, increasing evidence from recent scientific reports consistently support substantial reductions in sugar consumption through comprehensive strategies which include a tax. Furthermore, there is increasing public support for such measures. A sugar sweetened beverages tax will happen in the UK so the question is not ‘If?’ but ‘When?’ this tax will be implemented. And, crucially, which nation will get there first? England, Ireland, Scotland or Wales?